New to the faculty team of COLQ 1030: The Quest for Answers, the second semester colloquium for Honors first-years, Research Librarian Holly Jackson has brought a fresh idea to her curriculum. She has implemented a semester-long research log project, which is a blog managed by her students on which each student posts a weekly update of information and sources pertinent to their research in the class. “The research blogs are a way for students to keep track of the sources that they find that are relevant to their research,” says Jackson. “Part of the trouble with research as a whole is that the deeper you get into the research, the harder it can be to remember where you’ve gone and what sources you’ve seen. A lot of what we end up using in our final projects we might have forgotten about.”
Once they make a post, students are able to comment and make suggestions on the work of their peers. Jackson is a big proponent of collaboration in the classroom, and has brought that idea into her students’ outside research as well: “There’s only so much a faculty member can tell you- you accept their feedback, but sometimes, hearing it from somebody in your class who’s a peer is also important.” One of her students, first-year Westley Sturhan, agrees. “It’s like getting another set of eyes on your research,” he says, “and it lets you see perspectives from several different angles.” Another of Jackson’s students, first-year Hanson Dai, says that the collaboration brought by the research log process increases interaction in the class. “It facilitates a social engagement between people in class,” he says. “People follow each other’s research, and I like the dynamic. We’re building relationships here, and people are actually interested in each other’s research.”
Jackson is also expanding what “research” might include. “The blog is a place we can keep track of not just the articles and books that are relevant, but things that pop up that they might think are useful, like YouTube videos, blogs in the field, social media posts, anything,” Jackson adds. “There are sources that won't make it into the final paper, but have led them down the trail of research.”
Though the course is titled “The Quest for Answers: An Introduction to Research,” a main focus of the larger, department-wide curriculum is learning how to ask important questions in addition to finding answers. Sturhan says that these research logs have helped him in that endeavor: “The biggest help is when people comment on one of my sources and they leave a question.” These research blogs, in addition to providing a space for students to organize their own thoughts and comment on others’, have helped Jackson's students think deeply about what their research might entail.